AN: Dear readers and followers, I'm happy to be back with this particular pairing that I have done once before and thought I could try and do it justice in a new story again! I hope you enjoy, and I look forward to hopefully reading some reviews!
The lovely summer's day was disturbed by a near silent shifting of air and matter as a woman suddenly stood at the apparition point by the large iron gate. Thankfully it had stopped raining and they were experiencing a heat wave which translated into a comfortable 20 degrees celsius in the Scottish Highlands. The grass was still damp from the morning dew and Hermione was glad for the light jumper that she had the foresight to pull over her simple grey bodycon dress.
"Hermione, it is so good to see you," the headmistress greeted her with a fond smile, her aged but still very much powerful voice welcoming her back to what she called her true home.
"It's good to be home," she hugged the taller witch tightly and pressed a kiss to he paper thin skin on her aged cheek.
"How was your vacation in Greece?" she asked, as they began the walk up towards the castle at a comfortable but nonetheless brisk pace, used to the daily exercise of hills and steps.
Hermione shifted her handbag strap higher on her tanned shoulder and beamed happily. "Oh it was wonderful! Crete was my favourite though. The rich Minoan history and the beautiful sea…and the seafood of course. I admit, I may have indulged in dining out more often than I had originally planned but the grilled octopus and the salad…I just couldn't resist," she shrugged sheepishly.
"Dare I ask how many books you brought back with you?" Minerva asked teasingly though she would readily admit that Hermione's Christmas and birthday presents were quickly becoming some of the most favoured pieces in her ever growing private library.
Hermione was well aware of her bibliophile ways and no longer felt guilty for her love of books. "Only about 25 but some are for our Hogwarts library, and some are presents," she argues, only seeing the headmistress' smile widen.
"Never change, dear," Minerva said fondly.
"What about your summer break? Did you manage to visit with Poppy?" she asked, knowing that the two women were as close as sisters.
Minerva nodded and allowed for the young woman to link their arms as they began climbing the steps towards her office. "Oh yes, she is well, still looking after her great-niece. The poor soul had complications with the latest pregnancy and birth, and the little one is strong but needs to be monitored for a wee bit longer. She should be back with us in a week or two," she smiled.
"That's good news. What about the Potions position, have you managed to find someone to replace Ambrose?" The position needed frequent recruiting in a strange deja-vu, as most Potion Masters preferred to brew fo their own business and focus on research, not teaching classes to young children.
"We did, you will be able to reacquaint yourselves this evening when he arrives," was all she said, not wanting to give it all away. She just hoped that for her sake the two could get along. She was too old to be dealing with hostilities on her staff team.
"I look forward to the mystery then," Hermione chuckled and opened the hidden passage that allowed them to bypass four floors of stairs, and cope up close to the gargoyle.
"The new password is 'thistle'," Minerva let her know as the statue automatically jumped aside for them and let them up the stairs to the headmistress' office.
They found Winky already waiting for them with a tray that held freshly brewing tea. "Winky is sorry, headmistress. But Winky saw Miss Hermeenie coming and thought you may want tea," she bowed to the two women.
"Thank you Winky, very kind of you," Minerva smiled kindly at the petite elf.
"Welcome back Miss Hermeenie," she piped up, wringing the corner of her pillow case.
"Thank you Winky, it's good to be back," Hermione addressed her and watched a beaming smile blossom on her face.
Once the elf popped out of sight, the women settled into their seats and poured themselves some fresh Earl Grey as they caught up. They were interrupted just as Hermione was leaving by the fireplace roaring to life and a couple stepping through the green flames into the spacious office.
"Hermione! I didn't know you were back!" Hannah Longbottom smiled brightly as they greeted each other with a quick kiss on the cheek.
"I just arrived. Hello Neville, and Archie," she tickled the baby boy's cheek, receiving a sweet little giggle. "How was your summer?" she asked as they bid the headmistress adieu and headed down the stairs.
"Oh, it was just marvellous. Archie finally got into a sleeping pattern, so we have a bit more time and energy now," she winked at Hermione, indicating another reason for the bright smile on her face.
Hermione chuckled at her exuberance but couldn't blame them for taking advantage of some privacy after months of barely any rest. Hannah was a lovely woman, and Hermione only had the chance to discover as such once the redhead married her classmate five years ago, giving them once again a chance to get to know each other as adults outside of war conditions.
It was a quick friendship that grew between them and Hermione was honestly glad for having a young woman like herself at the castle. And while the average staff age has somewhat improves with Neville and Hermione joining them, it was still a profession most retired into, instead of starting off a career as a teacher.
The Longbottoms made a lovely couple, as Neville continued to grow into his confidence after the war with the gentle coaxing of his clever and kind wife. They tried for many years to start a family of their own but it was only last year that their Easter holiday proved to be fruitful and little Archibald Frank Longbottom was welcomed at Hogwarts with a grand celebration. Hermione often visited Hannah and the little menace on her lunch break, giving her a chance to bring something new for Hannah to read as well.
"I've planted some star grass before we left for the holidays, it should be ready for harvest in a week or two and the new Potions profession will surely be happy to brew your salve," Neville offered gently, aware how much her hip hurt some days.
"Thank you Neville, always so thoughtful," she smiled before Hannah suddenly piped up.
"I wonder who it will be. We know its a potion master, that much Minerva told us but why won't she tell us who he is?" she mused.
Hermione shrugged. "Something about reacquainting ourselves tonight, maybe we have already met and haven't seen each other in a while. I wonder whether it's someone from our time at Hogwarts. If it's Zacharias Smith and he's still a pompous ass, I just might have to drop a book on him," she mused.
Hannah snorted. "I would love to see that. It better not be him because I met him the other day in Diagon Alley and the man is still the same ass," he frowned.
"I guessed so. Anyway, we shall find out tonight. I'll see you three at dinner, yes?" she asked as they arrived at the staff quarters corridor.
"See you in a bit," Hannah waved, Archie copying the gesture adorably before they disappeared into their own rooms.
Contrary to popular belief, they all lived together on one corridor, the heads of house occupying rooms with built-in door directly to the respective common rooms they needed to monitor. The only quarters that used to be separate were Severus Snape's old quarters in the dungeons but these have been cleared out and sealed shut after the man's death, and new quarters for the potions master added on their floor.
Hermione unlocked her own quarters and cast a few dusting spells to make sure the room was clean before opening up the windows wide in every room to get some fresh air in. Everything was just as she had left it, nice and neat, the living room fireplace stacked with dry wood and ready to be lit later on. Her quarters were modest but they were all she needed, and held all that she owned in this world. The living room walls were all covered by tall bookshelves, divided into sections by type of literature and subject. Only the wall above the fireplace was left clear, bunches of lavender and camomile hanging upside down on the wall, a gift from Neville's early harvest for her rooms. She adored the smell and was happy to be welcomed by it once more. She added a new framed photograph to her mantle, snapped by one of the lovely French women she met in Crete that became her good friends by the end of the trip. They were eating some freshly grilled seafood and sipping on delicious cocktails. It was a fond memory and she chose to add it to her mantle to represent her holiday.
The war has been hard on all of them and the final battle was for many the most painful. They lost many of their friends and classmates including Cho Chang, Colin and Dennis Creevey, and Parvati Patil. The Weasleys counted themselves lucky as they all pulled through and didn't lose anyone, though Fred was touch and go for a while after the wall fell on him. They managed to get to him in time however, and he recovered well in the weeks following the fighting.
After the funerals were done and the dust settled, the Golden trio however went their own ways. Spending a year on the run together has nearly suffocated their friendship, so they decided to take some time apart and see how they would do. Harry joined the Auror training that was offered to him and within a couple of years settled down with Ginny as they'd planned. They stayed in touch but mostly on birthdays and Christmas, as they rarely saw each other.
Ron ended up taking the offer to train with the Chudley Cannons who were short a keeper after the war, and his fame only grew from that day onwards, as did his taste for his adoring female fans. Hermione was sad when the kiss she has been awaiting for many years finally came, but it was too late. She found that where once she had been deeply in love with Ron, it was too late now and their priorities were just too different to be compatible in any way. He wished for a stay-at-home wife, children, and a successful career. Hermione wanted to learn and travel, explore the world like she didn't have a chance to before, and didn't feel she wanted to settle down just yet. They parted on amicable terms but haven't spoke to each other nearly at all since.
Hermione stayed behind after the final battle and decided to help Minerva rebuild the damaged castle and prepare it for the start of the next year. She was left in charge of the library and worked tirelessly to rebuild the shelves and restore some of the damaged books as much she could, taking over the records left by the late Irma Pince who was killed fighting to protect it. She restored the Restricted section and with Minerva's help magically protected the tomes from further damage, containing the more darker magical tomes that could soak into the books around them and cause a magical riot.
Minerva saw great potential in her and arranged for Hermione to take her N.E.W.T.s at the end of the summer of 1998, so she could go into whatever field of study she wanted come September. When she applied for the Magical University in London, she was immediately accepted. She gained a mastery in Arithmancy and Ancient Runes, and discovered her other great love, the magical archives. She volunteered in the efforts to restore the British National Magical Archives in between classes and grew to love and appreciate the dedication it took to curate a collection of artefacts and work with her own magic to protect, preserve, and contain the magical power in other objects and books. She ended up accepting an apprenticeship under the head curator and left the archives in 2003 with glowing recommendations.
She traveled for a while, visiting several European countries and ventured all the way to Australia to travel the country where her parents lived for just over a year before dying in a car crash. New Zealand still remained one of her all time favourite trips, as did Romania where she ended up visiting Charlie at the dragon reserve. He kindly let her stay at his cottage and she even helped him care for some of the dragons to pull her weight for the food that was provided for her. She still exchanged letters with the dragon tamer these days, and she occasionally met him and his partner Ionescu at the Shell Cottage for Christmas or Bill's birthday. The eldest Weasley heard of her specialisation and they ended up consulting together on a few cases, reconnecting again after the war. She actually got to know Fleur better in the last few years and they became close friends, exchanging letters regularly as the blond was currently pregnant with their third, this time a little boy, and staying at home with the little ones.
It wasn't until four years ago that she received an unexpected letter from Minerva. They had stayed in touch of course, but she never thought she would be offered a job. Minerva had unsuccessfully tried to keep a librarian at Hogwarts but the position was not very popular. This time she asked Hermione if she would be interested in coming back to the school and taking over the care the vast library required. And Hermione thought it was an incredible opportunity, so she readily accepted. She sold her properties, rented out her London apartment to keep a side income, and settled in at Hogwarts, taking reigns of the library until it was once again as well run as Madam Pince had it.
She remembered the strictly controlled environment during her study years and decided to make a few changes. Tea was allowed in the library for those who studied for long hours like herself, on the condition that they took extreme care and reported any spillage so she could tend to the books. It was instantly a hit with the Ravenclaws who put many hours into research. No meals were allowed but small snacks were permitted if the students took care not to damage the books. She had a three point warning system and anyone who caused damage more than three times had the privileges of tea and snacks revoked until the end of the school year. The library was her queendom and she ruled with a firm but kind hand.
She did workshops at the beginning of the year with every new first year group to help them acclimatise and learn how to best search for books and navigate the library, and started a book reading club that ran once every two weeks on a Thursday evening. It became popular with the fifth, sixth and seven years as the reading list contained some cool muggle fiction, and also practical non-fiction that would prepare them for life after Hogwarts. Sometimes she invited one of the professors to join them, oftentimes Professor Sarah Madill who taught the Muggle studies to provide some more context into how to best put the knowledge in the books into practice when working or traveling in the muggle world.
She unpacked her suitcase and stopped by the library, feeling the wards she had set before leaving welcoming her with a soft hum, the books picking up on the magic of their current curator. She dusted her station and the tables first, knowing tomorrow would be the real clean up day when she would dust the rest of the library gently and reconnect her magic with the restricted section. With a couple of hours to spare, she grabbed her gift for Hagrid and headed down to his hut for a cup of tea, politely refusing the rock-hard cakes with the excuse she didn't want to spoil her appetite for dinner.
She bumped into the Longbottoms on their way to the Great Hall. During the summer they pushed the house tables to the wall and set up a smaller round table in the centre so staff could have more company during meals with each other if they were staying at Hogwarts.
"Ah, and last but not least," Minerva greeted them, their conversation halting as they noticed someone least expected standing next to her.